Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Warren County's lawyer: No public vote allowed on airport runway project

QUEENSBURY -- The controversial extension of the main runway at Warren County Airport could not legally be put up for a public vote, according to Warren County Attorney Martin Auffredou.

Several speakers at a public meeting Monday night that focused on the airport asked county supervisors to put the $8 million project up for a vote.

Auffredou said he researched the issue, and concluded Wednesday that state laws would not allow for a public referendum on an airport project.

“In New York state, a referendum is only permissible when authorized by statute,” he said. “In this instance, an airport expansion project is a Board of Supervisors decision and I can find no indication it is subject to or subject of a referendum.”

The extension project, which would add 1,000 feet to the 5,000-foot north-south runway, has been questioned in recent months by newly elected supervisors who have debated whether it is warranted. Supervisors have also questioned spending to operate the airport and recent purchases of land around it to improve the flight approach.

Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said he was not sure the Board of Supervisors would have authorized a public vote if one was allowed. He said allowing a public referendum on county projects is a “slippery slope.”

“The supervisors are elected by the people to represent them,” he said. “If you start doing that (having referendums), then there will be requests for everything to be on the ballot.”

The meeting ended Monday night when Crandall Public Library staff directed attendees to leave the building by 9 p.m., to the chagrin of many in attendance.

The public commentary portion of the meeting was over, and Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mark Westcott was preparing to give the audience a presentation on the project put together by Upstate New York Taxpayer Advocates, a group he co-founded.

The presentation was cut short, but a second public meeting is being organized by Westcott and Queensbury at-Large Supervisor William Mason. Mason said a date had not been chosen as of Wednesday morning, but it will likely be held in the next two weeks or so at the North Queensbury fire station.

Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Dan Girard, chairman of the county board’s Facilities Committee, which hosted the meeting, said any followup meeting will not be an official Facilities Committee. The Board of Supervisors believes it fulfilled the request by UNYTA for a night meeting on the issue with Monday night’s gathering, he said.

The runway extension was first approved in 2003, and was the subject of two votes earlier this year in which it passed 18-2 on the 20-member Board of Supervisors. Girard said he believes it will have a positive economic impact on the region.

“The consensus on the board has been strong throughout this debate,” he said.

UNYTA’s presentation can be found online at Click on “airport position paper.”


Arraignment expected for man who shot at vintage airplane


An arraignment is expected on Wednesday for a man accused of attempted murder in an airplane shooting.

Jason McCay is charged with two counts of attempted murder for shooting at a vintage plane in Hayden last year. The charges were added after McCay had already pleaded guilty to lesser charges of firing at the plane.

Two men were on the plane at the time of the shooting.

McCay is currently serving a year's probation for the lesser charges and is ordered to stay away from firearms and ammunition.


Endicott Interconnect files bankruptcy


(WBNG Binghamton) Without the ability to use immediate cash collateral, Endicott Interconnect owners say the embattled company will not be able to pay for insurance, employee wages or other "critical operating expenses," according to a court filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of New York.

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Its estimated liabilities are between $50 million and $100 million divided among 200 to 999 creditors, according to court documents.
The largest unsecured claim is with IBM for nearly $5.5 million, according to documents.

However, a letter sent to employees dated Wednesday states the company lost nearly $100 million between 2009 and 2012. The letter states EIT cannot meet $70 million of that debt, "making Chapter 11 the only viable solution."

"Chapter 11 is a legal process that will allow EIT the opportunity to continue to conduct business while the company restructures its financial affairs, thereby ensuring the company’s long term viability and attractiveness to a qualified buyer who is willing to continue the investment into the facility and its workforce," according to the letter by Chief Restructuring Officer David Van Rossum, dated July 10.

The letter assures employees "EIT will remain open and plans to meet its commitments to all customers."

Van Rossum also writes "(e)mployee wages and health benefits are not expected to change as a result of the Chapter 11 filing," adding that pay cycles will continue on the traditional schedule.

"Workforce levels will continually be evaluated, as always, based on customer demands," the letter states.

The letter says EIT minority owners the Matthews family took full control of the company in 2013. Van Rossum says the family will make a bid to buy the company and "retain jobs in a restructured environment."

As a result, the company's interim CEO, Jim Matthews, Jr., -- who took over this spring after former CEO Jay McNamara resigned -- will step down to focus on the restructuring plan.

It's the latest in a series of blows for what was once one of Broome County's largest employers.

In a court filing in April, McNamara told a federal judge if the company's private jet were taken away, and it lost a subsequent lawsuit, the result would likely be bankruptcy.

One of two occurred the following month, when U.S. District Court Southern New York Division Judge Jed S. Rakoff ordered U.S. Marshalls to seize the Hawker 800 corporate jet, which was at the time parked at Binghamton Regional Airport.

Canal Air LLC -- a subsidiary of General Electric -- is suing Endicott Interconnect because the Broome County employer missed a nearly $77,000 rent payment on the private jet Canal owns.

In a separate lawsuit, Canal is asking for $11.5 million because EI missed the payment. McNamara told the court a ruling for removal of the corporate jet would add prejudice to the subsequent $11.5 million lawsuit. The judge disagreed.

McNamara said in an April letter to the court that losing both lawsuits would cost the future of EI, and the company's now 605 jobs.

In his decision, Rakoff said the facts speak for themselves.

"The undisputed facts demonstrated beyond any doubt that Canal Air is entitled to the immediate return of its aircraft under the terms of the lease," he wrote in April.

The number of employees at EI -- and the company's financial health -- have been difficult to determine, despite repeated reports from current and former employees who have expressed concern over its shrinking workforce.

McNamara retired April 12, but among his final acts was penning a letter to defend his company's actions in its dealings with Canal Air.

"EIT has been involved, for months, in efforts to restructure its financing so as to produce a positive cash flow and to allow it to remain in business and to continue to employ its employees, currently numbering approximately 605," McNamara wrote in the letter dated April 8.

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St. Clair County Airport Authority looking for new airport manager: St. Clair County (KPLR), Pell City, Alabama

The St. Clair County Airport Authority is looking for a new airport manager.

The authority unanimously accepted the resignation of former St. Clair County Airport manager Larry Davis Jr., who officially resigned Sunday to accept a management position at a local industry.

“I hate it that we lost Larry,” Chairman Erskine Funderburg said during Tuesday morning’s meeting at the airport.

Davis offered his assistance and support during the transitional period.

“Thank you all for the support and opportunities during the last six years,” Davis wrote in his June 28 letter of resignation.

Authority members were unsure how they would proceed but may fill the vacant position, at least temporarily, with a part-time employee, along with other part-time support workers. Davis was a full-time manager at the airport.

Funderburg said finances are already stretched at the airport, so the authority could save money by hiring a part-time manager and support workers.

Funderburg said previous aviation experience is required for anyone interested in applying for the job.

The authority has already received a couple of resumes for the vacant position.

The authority is expected to meet in two weeks for more discussions about the vacant position and other matters.

Authority member Terry Capps told other members he will help manage the airport with other part-time workers until the authority makes a final decision about the vacant airport manager position, but said his time is limited.

Read more: The Daily Home - SCCAA looking for new airport manager

Aircraft noise just a fact of life in South Delta

The Delta Optimist 
July 10, 2013 2:12 AM


Re: Noisy jets still flying over Tsawwassen, letter to the editor, July 3

I just love reading the glass half empty types from Tsawwassen. The latest from J.K. Nybo. My goodness, planes flying over causing such distress. Did it occur to the writer that this is a fact of life in this neck of the woods?

Here in Ladner, we too have aircraft flying over, from light aircraft to jumbo jets. It lasts a minute or so and then peace and quiet returns.

It tells me that our economy is healthy and vibrant. Don't sweat the small stuff, just enjoy life and stop whining.

E. Tempest


Noisy jets still flying over Tsawwassen

Colorado Springs: Hear the alarms?

Halfway through his first — and perhaps only? — term as Colorado Springs' mayor, Steve Bach faces a laundry list of major issues, all of which he appears determined to resolve himself.

There's the airport, with its fast-dwindling passenger numbers. Bach dumped airport director Mark Earle, promised bold new strategies to revive and enhance local air service, and led us to believe existing airlines would resurrect flights to previously served destinations. So far, we've had a happy announcement about Alaska Airlines adding one flight a day to Seattle — in December. Far from a turnaround.

Read more here:

India Plans to Build Passenger Aircraft: WSJ

Updated July 10, 2013, 6:42 a.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal

NEW DELHI—India's ambition to build its own passenger planes received a boost after the government gave the go-ahead for a project to develop initially a 70-100 seat aircraft.

The plan, approved at a high-level committee meeting on manufacturing headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and comprising ministers and government officials, will include the setting up of a special company that would use the design skills of the National Aerospace Laboratories, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and other state-run organizations.

"This [the civilian passenger aircraft industry] is a strategic sector where there is a need to have a presence in the long term, particularly in view of the rapid growth of our aviation sector," a statement issued late Tuesday by the Prime Minister's office said, adding that a group headed by V. Krishnamurthy, chairman of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council would work out the modalities of this program.

The statement didn't include details on cost, the purposes of the plane, or if there are plans to build more types of passenger planes in the future.

The Indian government will consider partnerships with private companies in the country, as well as overseas ones for the development and production of the plane, the statement said.

Offsets in India's defense sector would also be leveraged to build high-precision equipment and avionics for the passenger aircraft project. Under the Indian government's so-called offset policy, companies that received Indian defense contracts exceeding 3.0 billion rupees ($50 million) need to either locally manufacture the products or parts worth 30% of the contract's value, or make an equivalent investment in the country.

Foreign aerospace and defense companies such as Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. of the U.S., Russia's United Aircraft Corp. and Dassault Aviation SA of France have received defense contracts from India. Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier Inc. have also sold passenger planes to Indian carriers.

India—which has one of the world's most active space programs—is still to develop its own passenger plane. The country's first experience with a civilian aircraft is the Saras turboprop multi-role light transport plane that has been developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories.

Prototypes of the Saras are still being tested before the aircraft is certified for commercial use.

In one of the significant government-private partnerships, Mahindra Aerospace Pvt., part of India's diversified Mahindra Group,  has developed a five-seat light utility aircraft with National Aerospace Laboratories and GippsAero, the Australia unit of Mahindra Aerospace.

The development of a midsize passenger plane would allow India to extensively connect its smaller towns and cities to the major metropolis. It will also allow India to earn valuable foreign exchange from exports.


Balloon man faces Federal Aviation Administration fine: Feds say Bend, Oregon, man who flew lawn chair was unauthorized, reckless

A Bend man famous for taking his lawn chair to the skies faces a fine from the Federal Aviation Administration for his flight last summer.

The FAA is fining 53-year-old Kent Couch $4,500 for his July 14, 2012, flight from Bend to a field near Post, Elizabeth Cory, a spokeswoman with the agency, confirmed Monday. Fareed Lafta, a 35-year-old Iraqi adventurer, joined Couch for the shorter-than-expected ride and also faces a similar FAA fine, but he is out of the country and the agency has not heard back from him.

The agency contends the men acted as pilots without valid certificates or authorization, operated an unregistered aircraft without an airworthiness certificate and “operated an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another."

Cory said the FAA would like Couch to pay the fine “as soon as possible."

Couch, reached by phone Monday, said he is contesting the FAA fine, although the agency doesn't have any documents indicating a formal appeal. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Bulletin prompted the FAA to release 83 pages of documents regarding its investigation into last year's lawn-chair balloon launch in Bend.

Last July, Couch and Lafta launched from the Stop & Go Station, which Couch owns, at the corner of U.S. Highway 20 and 27th Street. The two sat in lawn chairs clamped to an aluminum frame and were carried aloft by 400 large helium-filled party balloons. They wanted to fly 360 miles to Montana in a day-and-a-half, and carried extra clothes and sleeping bags to keep them warm throughout the night. But the threat of thunderstorms cut the flight short.

Hundreds of people were there for the launch, including volunteers who filled the balloons with helium and tied them to the lawn chairs. The balloons were red, white, blue and black — combining the colors of the American and Iraqi flags. After taking off from Bend around 10:20 a.m. that day, Couch and Lafta floated north for about 40 miles before winds shifted and sent them south, then east. As thunderclouds gathered, they popped some of the balloons to force a landing about 30 miles east from where they had started.

During the flight, the balloons reached an altitude of 14,060 feet, as measured by an altimeter carried aboard, according to FAA documents.

After landing in the field near Post, a remote unincorporated Crook County community, a system designed to release 100 of the balloons and keep the lawn chairs on the ground malfunctioned. Unmanned, the lawn chairs took off again. They were in the air for about an hour and traveled about five miles before coming back down. Inspectors with the FAA noted that one of the lawn chairs suffered a bent leg, although it was unclear if it occurred during the first or second landing.

Couch said FAA officials interviewed him after the flight, as they have during his past adventures in the air.

“They've interviewed me every year," he said. “(They) want to make sure I'm legal."

The flight last year was the fifth since 2006 for Couch as a lawn-chair balloonist, he said. The first time he made it to near Brothers, the second to near Baker City, the third to near Cambridge, Idaho, and the fourth to near Paulina. The flights have earned Couch national and international media coverage, and he has made appearances on “Good Morning America" and “The Tonight Show."

Last year Couch talked about the possibility of doing a flight in Iraq, but for now his lawn-chair ballooning plans are on hold because of the costs involved. He said he does want to fly again.

“We are waiting for the price of helium to come down a bit," he said.


Lawn chair balloonist says flying days are done

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon man who made headlines with his numerous flights in a lawn chair suspended from party balloons said Tuesday that between the high price of helium and a fine from the Federal Aviation Administration, his flying days might be done — at least in the U.S.

Bend gas station owner and craft beer seller Kent Couch said helium costs five times what it did when he made his first flight in 2006.

And the FAA fined him $4,500 in February for his July 14, 2012, tandem flight with Iraqi adventurer Fareed Lafta. The fine was reported Monday by The Bend Bulletin.

"We need them," Couch said of the agency. "But they certainly dampened my spirit of flying."

The FAA says Couch and Lafta flew without pilot's licenses, failed to register the lawn chairs as an aircraft, failed to have the contraption certified as airworthy, and were careless and reckless when the balloon took off without them after they landed in a farm field.

Couch says the FAA agreed to reduce the fine from $5,500 to $4,500 after he talked to its lawyer. He said he paid the fine by certified check in February or March with money he received from a sponsor.

But FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in an email that the agency has no record of the payment. The FAA levied a similar fine against Lafta, but he is out of the country and has not responded, Cory said.

"I think they are just making me a scapegoat or an example, to keep other people from doing it," said Couch.

Apparently it didn't work.

A La Center, Wash., man launched his own lawn chair balloon last month to celebrate his 60th birthday. He managed to fly 24 miles before getting stuck in a tree, far short of his goal of more than 250 miles.

Couch said the FAA interviewed him after some of his previous flights, but this is the first time it levied a fine.

In his 2006 flight, Couch traveled 99 miles before the balloons started popping and he had to bail out. In 2007, he flew 193 miles before running low on helium and landing in the sagebrush of Eastern Oregon.

In 2008, he floated at 35 mph across the high desert and landed in a pasture in the farming community of Cambridge, Idaho, after pulling out his trusty BB rifle and shooting enough balloons to come to earth. The lawn chair from that flight is in a museum.

He was at it again in 2010 when he raced another law chair balloonist on a flight that went about 70 miles.

Couch theorized the fine came because he had a co-pilot on the 2012 flight, but Cory said that was not the case.

Still up in the air is whether Couch and Lafta go through with a flight in Iraq. Couch and his wife, Susan, went to Dubai in 2011 in hopes of making the flight, but it never got off the ground. Couch says Lafta has put it on hold.

"I'll never regret doing those flights, based just on the great sense of being able to fly through the air like a cloud," Couch said.


Delaware County, Pennsylvania: Business featured in new TV reality series - Airplane Repo

Amid the towering red rocks of the American Southwest, Ken Cage of Media pulled out a pair of black binoculars and peered at his target: A $180,000 Beechcraft Baron 58. 

The pursuit of it had taken him through various states and cost him thousands of dollars. Now, he risked losing it again as he and partner Danny Chapman sped around the narrow cliff roads of Arizona in a race to repossess the aircraft before the owner escaped again.

This chase was being videotaped as part of Discovery Channel’s new reality series, “Airplane Repo,” which premiers Thursday at 10 p.m. and showcases Cage, Mike Kennedy and Kevin Lacey of Texas.

“Being on a reality show is one thing,” Cage said. “Being on Discovery, that’s the big boy, like wow! It’s a little overwhelming and humbling to see.”

Cage, whose former employers include JP Morgan and DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, was looking for a career change in 2005, with his friend and fellow Sun Valley alum and Brookhaven resident, Bob Weeks, when they found International Recovery Group in Orlando, Fla., and they became hooked.

Eight years later, the allure has not dimmed, even after a day of nine repossessions over multiple states.

“It’s super intense,” Cage said. “I am super competitive. That’s the fun part for me. If I could compete 24/7, I would.”

It’s been described as a high-adrenaline, cat-and-mouse game.

“They are hiding it and I’m looking for it and who’s going to win,” Cage said. “If there’s going to be a ‘Who’s going to win?’ it has to be me.”

And, that comes from someone who doesn’t even know how to fly a plane.

“I have flown,” Cage said, “but from the right seat.”

In all of his work, his approach of respect has not changed.

“Most people are going to react the way you show them first,” Cage said, explaining that he usually talks to the former owners and says, “Come on, let’s not make any more of a scene than we need to.”

“They kind of know where you are,” he added. “There’s never any question about what’s going on. They act liked they’re shocked but in most cases, they know they haven’t made a payment in four months.”

Discovery Channel spokesman Mike Barrett said Cage was chosen as his company has successfully completed more than 1,200 repossessions of planes, boats and construction equipment, including ones that have occurred almost being run over by a car or facing the dangerous end of a gun.

Cage said over the years, his company has garnered some notoriety from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to the couch of Fox & Friends.

“We were pretty popular,” he said. “As far as repo companies out there, we’re probably the most known entity out there because of all this publicity.”

So, Los Angeles-based Undertow Productions searched for them to star on their 10-episode reality series.

“They’re extraordinarily talented,” Cage said. “They are extraordinarily qualified and they’re really good guys.”

In the segments, Cage is shown with partner, former bounty hunter and MMA fighter Danny Thompson of Charlotte, N.C.

“He makes me look good,” Cage said. “I think it’s a pretty good team he and I have. We get along great.”

As he makes his reality series debut, the Aston native has not forgotten his hometown.

When not hunting down planes and boats, he can be seen helping coach the Aston Valley 11-year-old all-stars as they head to the state playoffs for the second consecutive year.

As it nears, Cage said he can’t anticipate how the reality show will impact his business, but his enthusiasm is percolating.

“I’m just really proud of what Discovery is putting out there,” he said. “I think people are going to be really excited about it. I think it’s going to be fantastic. I hope people are going to watch. We’re super excited about it. We’re on edge, too. It’s the first tilt of the roller coaster ... I’m going to scream at the top of the hill. I know it’s going to be great.”

“Airplane Repo” featuring Ken Cage of the Delaware County-based International Recovery Group premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.